Prison Teachers Harsh Lessons Part Three Cell Etiquette

Prison Teachers Harsh Lessons Part Three Cell Etiquette

Prison Teachers Harsh Lessons Part Three

Cell Etiquette

“Roll up, Baker,” barked the Guard. “You’re movin’ to down the row to 113.” He turned away and clomped back to the podium. The Department of Corrections (DOC) moved women around like chess pieces. This would be my third cellmate in three months.  Prison Teachers Harsh Lessons Part Three Cell Etiquette

I was nervous as I packed my plastic bags wondering who my new cell mate would be. I dragged my bags to a new cell, the familiar hiss of plastic bags followed me down the row on the first floor. I stopped four doors down, in front of cell 113 and waited for  the guard to call the Bubble and order the cell door open. All eyes in the dayroom were on me. I didn’t know which was worse, staring out at the crowd or turning to see just who was in that cell.

I recognized this woman

The door rolled open. A young black woman was pacing inside, I apologized for coming into her space, “Sorry. I’m your new cellmate.” She shrugged her shoulders,

“Ain’t no extra beds, prison’s full.”

Prison Teachers Harsh Lessons Part Three Cell EtiquetteI recognized this woman. I’d overheard her talking in the dayroom about being an exotic dancer. It was the first time I had been this close to a woman who made her living by taking off her clothes. She walked to the window and looked out at the dayroom, allowing me space to unpack. It did not take long to unpack. Clothes in one tank box, coffee and creamer in the next, toothbrush on the shelf. I quickly made the lower bed and climbed into my bunk, slumping against the wall.

My new cellmate resumed her pacing.

“What you in for?” She asked.

Manslaughter II/DUI Car Accident

I gave her the speech: Man II/DUI car accident. Seventy five months, no good time.

She nodded her head and seemed satisfied. “I am here for fighting. I got mittens.” She held up her fists. She looked down at her balled up hands and tucked them under her armpits, like she had to place them in a safe, locked place. Then she turned away and leaned on the wall, gazing out the cell window. “I been down about a year. Crimes up in here be all over the place. A lot of cluster fuck robberies for drugs, lots of I.D theft and murder. As long as you ain’t in here for a child crime, we’ll get along O.K.”

I took in her frame as she faced outward. She was short and curvy. Her waist was tiny, like a corset, then blossomed into a round rump. My God, you could set a tea cup on that thing. I bet she can kick too. I just kept staring at her well muscled arms and balled up fists. I could feel my heart beating.

“What’s your name?”


“You ain’t never been in prison before, have you Kaaren?” She drew out my name.

“No.” I hoped that was the right answer.

“Uh huh.”

Livin’ in a cell means you gotta take care of yourself, not let yourself go

She didn’t tell me her name. We all could see the last name on our I.D.’s. They were on the lanyards around our neck, but the last name was what the cops called us.   

She resumed pacing. She stopped at the mirror and turned her head side to side to check her face and hair. She was exotic, like her profession. She had large black eyes and a pouty bottom lip. “Livin’ in a cell means you gotta take care of yourself, not let yourself go. If you look a hot mess, all the nasty stank of a women’s prison is gonna be blamed on you.” She did not make eye contact but went back to pacing, like a school teacher.  “Make an attempt. You gotta shower every day, change your shirt and underwear, wear deodorant, brush you teeth. Don’t be sneezin’ and coughin’ all over the cell. Pick up after yourself. Don’t put wet clothes in your laundry bag.”

“Okay.” I said meekly, like a child. But my new cellmate was about 19, 20 at the most. I wondered who taught her this stuff. Did she learn from other inmates or did she have a mother who taught her the basics of personal care?

Ain’t nobody gonna wanna live with a thief

“Never, never touch my stuff. I will share if you need it, but if you be touchin’ and taking peoples’ property, you gonna do some hard time. Ain’t nobody gonna wanna live with a thief.” She went back to the window. She said all this matter of fact. Not mean, not threatening. I was actually relieved. At least we had some ground rules and I knew she would tell me what I needed to learn. I did not want to meet those mittens. I planned on walking out through the fences of prison with all my teeth.

Prison Teachers Harsh Lessons Part Three Cell EtiquetteShe stopped pacing, faced me, mittens on hips, “One last thing, Kaaren, anyone taught you a courtesy flush?”


“When you gotta take a crap, you gotta sit all the way back on that cold ass toilet seat and make a booty seal with yo’ ass. Then you flush. It be cold.” She shook her head,

“You might have to flush more than once. You do what it takes cuz no one wants to be smelling your shit.”

“Okay!” I’m sure my eyes were the size of dinner plates. My God I just met this person and she’s telling me how to have a bowel movement. I had no idea there was prison etiquette for poop.

The doors of the cell opened for line movement and she went out into the dayroom, no goodbye, no backward glance. The lecture was over. I watched her round black bottom moving through the tables in a staccato beat: boompity, BOOM, boompity BOOM, the booty seal queen.

The prison spent good money on a powerful plumbing system

While she was gone I brushed my teeth, sniffed my pits, and gave myself a little bird bath. I reviewed the protocol of a proper booty seal: sit all the way back on the seat, and use my legs in the gaps. The prison spent good money on a powerful plumbing system. A back up would be unthinkable. The stainless toilets were connected to an enormous cavern of plumbing tunnels so when you flushed, the noise was like the call of the dinosaurs. Here goes. Whoo-eee! It was a blast from the arctic tundra, and moist. I stood and checked, I had a tender butt hickey but everything went down, matter, tissue and odor. Small price to pay for peace.

Prison Teachers Harsh Lessons Part Three Cell Etiquette

Prison Teachers Harsh Lessons Part Three Cell Etiquette

Prison Teachers Harsh Lessons Part Two

Prison Teachers Harsh Lessons Part Two Hookers

Prison Teachers Harsh Lessons Part Two


During the confinement of count time or lights dim, Mittens and I began to share our personal histories. It was like chess. Each of us placed a fact on the table and watched the other’s reaction. I told her about the accident and Tom. She wasn’t overly sympathetic. I was met with this reaction in nearly every telling of my story. Despite killing my husband and another woman in the car accident, the reaction to my crime was just the same old story. It didn’t feel that way to me. 

Prison Teachers Harsh Lessons Part Two

“I loved him,” I admitted, “but he scared me. He was a pretty, pretty man, a dead ringer for Sam Elliot, dimples and all. He was a wild, adorable lush. I didn’t say no. That was my fault. On the days my daughters were with their dad, I waded in to whatever extreme sport came up—boating, skiing, mountain climbing. I was the chick who hung out with the dudes. There was a lot of tailgating. All the guys smoked weed. We all drank.  My life was out of control.”

She was underwhelmed by my story

She sighed and shook her head. She was underwhelmed by my story. Mine was a suburban mom crime, a luxury crime of selfishness. I was not stealing to eat or hooking to buy groceries for my kids. But I was the opposite when she began to talk about her violent childhood. There was drug addiction and poverty. “My little brother and I use to put water on our cereal. Sometimes it was the only food in the house.” I pictured Nikki and Haley going to school hungry. How old was she?

“teach” about life in prison

Between sharing our stories, my new cellmate continued to pace and “teach” about life in prison. My next lesson was hookers. She shrugged her shoulders. “I take the money both on and off the stage.” Then she walked to the window and turned her attention to another woman. “See that one by the call-out board? Girl ain’t go no game. She thinks she’s all that, but she ain’t nothing but a flat backer.” She stayed at the window and kept looking at her, “I know God don’t like that blue eyeliner. Umph.” Then she walked back to my bunk and turned her pretty peepers at me, “Girl’s a mess, Kaaren.”

What’s a Flatbacker?

I laughed. “O.K., I’ll bite, what’s a flatbacker?”

Prison Teachers Harsh Lessons Part Two“Flatbacker is a hooker who actually has to lay down to get paid. Their last known address is the back seat of a Coupe de Ville behind the Waffle House. They hit the top of the skankometer. They do a quick P.T.A., that’s a pussy tits and ass in the sink at the Shell gas station between clients. There’s girls like me that dance. Sometimes I just go with someone to let them do what they do. One man pays me to watch him dress up in women’s clothes.”

I laughed and leaned forward. She was on a roll. “I’m good at it. I tell him, ‘Oh no! Those shoes are all wrong with that dress, you gotta start over, and wear the right bra and panty set.’”

And I thought I had held some odd jobs.

The Primo Hooker

“The primo hooker is the call girl, a top dolla ho. Call girls look down on corner girls. We have a call girl in the honor dorm. They call her Helen of Troy. One of her Johns was murdered, she was in the room, so she went down.

Prison Teachers Harsh Lessons Part Two
AKA Helen of Troy

She’s prime pussy, even pretty on prison. I’ll point her out at yard. Just watch her walk, all lady-like. Girl raise a jealous ruckus alright, make straight girls go gay and fighters see red.”

“Do you make a lot of money dancing and, you know, the other stuff?” I asked.

“Listen, not everyone’s meant for the game. Why should I wear some paper hat in stand in grease all day? I can make a whole day’s wages in ten minutes. Kaaren, your Tom? Girl, you ain’t falling in love with the right things.

Do you understand Unlimited Visa?

I know I’m gonna fall in love with a Bentley and a trip to the Poconos, and a pink diamond. Eat your heart out J-Lo. Do you understand Unlimited Visa?” She took up the pacing, checking her money-maker body in the mirror. “I don’t care if he’s Arabian, White, Native. If he’s got no teeth, I’d bake his cake and put it in the blender. I’ll just keep my jewelry and the Land Rover with the leather interior. That’s the truth. Ain’t no shame in the game.” She was theatrical but now she stopped before me and said very seriously, “When you grow up eating breakfast cereal with water, what cha gonna do?”

“I can’t imagine. You had to be pretty strong from the get-go, didn’t you?”

“I’m a survivor Kaaren.”

“I have never heard a story like yours, except on Oprah or in a book.”


“You’re a natural born storyteller.”

She liked that, looked at herself in the mirror.

You have a lot to teach a woman like me

“You have a lot to teach a woman like me. I’d like to write down some of the things you just said. Is that O.K.? I think I might write a book and let me tell you, you would be a star.”

“A book? Somebody gotta do that, OK?”

I reached for paper. “OK, let’s go back to the beginning, the hookers, then you said something like ‘why should I wear a paper hat and stand around in grease all day?’

Her hard life stories and lessons continued into the days and nights.  She encouraged me to write. She would even slow down and repeat things so I could get the direct quotes.  She did a good job of telling a lively story, but I could hear the hurt and disappointment in her life and the pride that covered up the damage. I felt the stirring of tenderness for this girl, but kept a watchful eye on those mittens.

Prison Teachers Harsh Lessons Part Two Hookers

Prison Teachers Harsh Lessons Part Two Hookers

Guest Blog by Stephanie K. Nead

Guest Blog by Stephanie K. Nead

Guest Blog by Stephanie K. Nead

Some of my childhood memories of alcohol

In my family alcoholism, and its darkness, runs rampant and destructive as a river in full flood. As a child, my small ears listened deep as my father berated my mother. My dad’s cronies backed me into corners with lechery in their eyes as words I didn’t understand, but felt creep across my skin like ice, came from their mouths. I watched my oldest brother strangled into unconsciousness. His skull was fractured, ribs broken. He had seizures for years after. It was my brother who was shamed for being beaten, never my father for getting blackout drunk and trying to kill him—repeatedly.  Guest Blog by Stephanie K. Nead.

 Guest Blog by Stephanie K. Nead

Guest Blog by Stephanie K. Nead
Stephanie K. Nead

These are some of my childhood memories of alcohol. No laughing easy times, no fun and games. Deadly serious. My mother was forever worried. We children lived in fear.

Many years later, I met Karen. She was my physical therapy assistant. I loved her kindness, creativity,  deep caring and awesome sense of humor. Amidst busy lives, we were becoming friends. In one of our casual chats, Karen mentioned she was writing on the topic of drunk driving. Assuming that she too had been hurt by a drunk, I let fly with my gut response, something akin to “The tragedy is the drunk survives while everyone else dies! Should be the other way around.” Karen became very, very quiet. 

After that day, while friendly, kind and helpful, Karen was professional and distant. I knew I’d hurt her but had no idea exactly how. 

Then one day, years later, came Karen’s first blog post for her book. Karen, my wonderful Karen, had been the drunk driver in an accident that claimed the life of her husband and the other driver, and left her two daughters without their mother and step-father when she went to prison. I could not imagine the courage it took to invite everyone in the world to read her story. I was awestruck. I wrote her. I apologized for judging and hurting her. I also explained that my knee-jerk response arose out of my childhood experience with alcoholics. Karen responded with grace and curiosity. We corresponded and she invited me to write this piece.

I’d heard Karen speak of her husband, what a gorgeous, glorious rogue he was, her eyes sparkling with love. I knew she had daughters and I knew those relationships had their struggles, but what mother-daughter relationship doesn’t? I never imagined the nerve I hit when I “went off” on Karen. She was one of “them?!” Ah, can we never escape the us and them? A lesson for me in empathy. As it turned out, Karen, like me, was hurt by a drunk driver. That person just happened to be herself. She was and is exactly all I’ve known her to be, yet she is human and made a horrible mistake that took two lives and irrevocably changed many more. 

Guest Blog by Stephanie K. NeadWhen I was in college, my dad, drunk, hit a car filled with a mother and four children. He tried to get sober then. His voice quavered as he told me, “When I lost control and saw my car moving into them, all I could see was your mother and you kids.” He tried to quit. I know he really wanted to, but he was one of those drunks the Big Book of AA refers to when it says “…some won’t quit, some can’t quit.” My dad couldn’t. 

A lifelong atheist, at the end of his life my dad turned to Catholicism. I hope, for his sake, that by the time he died he felt he was forgiven for the things he did, even those he might not have fully remembered. I also know that for the rest of us the damage was done. It is a legacy I have had to live with and resolve. I always will. Just as Karen’s girls will live their lives with the legacy of the night their parents got into a car and drove drunk. 

What I’ve learned is that holding onto judgment does no one any good. To be honest, some of my childhood memories still make me feel angry. Forgiveness doesn’t come overnight or all at once. It’s bits and pieces. With effort and time, forgiveness and healing deepen. Holding onto my wounds and my pain only leads me to hurt others who have suffered their own faults and paid their own price. They do not deserve the burden of my anger and judgment. 

What Karen shares in this book are many stories like her own — of people doing their best in life, making huge, horrifying, irrevocable mistakes that destroy their own lives and change forever the landscape of multiple lives and hearts. They do not deserve my wrath. We can comfort each other or condemn each other, but either way, we are all in this together. We have all been the wounded and the wounding. Most of us are mostly good. None of us is perfect. We all deserve forgiveness.  Guest Blog by Stephanie K. Nead

Stephanie K. Nead

Sequim, WA 2019

Guest Blog by Stephanie K. Nead

Guest Blog by Stephanie K. Nead

Lowdown on Sex in a Womens Prison Part Two

The Low Down on Prison Sex Part Two

The Low Down on Prison Sex

Part Two

Day 91

(Please read Part One)

Sitting with the group of women at the dayroom table I now understood where women inmates had sex, but I still wondered about logistics: how were more of them not caught in the act?

“The only way to have a decent booty call is for someone to count jigs,”  said Twin Two.

“Counting jigs?” I asked.

“It’s kinda a three-way,” Lala said. “Someone stands watch outside the shower, or the broom closet while we knock it out. The girl might be pretending to wash the outside of the shower or load supplies on the janitor cart outside the broom closet.” Lala turned to the girls, “You know they’re gonna watch.” The Twins smirked. Maybe that was a part of the play.

Gay for the Stay, Straight at the Gate

“It’s obvious to anyone in the room what’s goin’ on behind that door. Sometimes I think the cops know but they just don’t want to hassle with the paperwork,” said Leaning Girl. “Sex in prison is just sex,” she shrugged. “The varieties are all over the map.” Lala nodded to The Twins, “You got your lipstick lesbians to full-blown dykes. Gay for the stay, straight at the gate, queer for a year, playin’ house in the Big House, you never know who’s jumpin’ in.”

“Everybody I know from the outside wants the scoop,” said Lala. “They ask if there is a lot of girl-girl action with the wiggly eyebrows. They want the raunchy facts, but mostly, they want to know if I have started playing for the other team.”

Line movement occurred, and just as abruptly as the conversation began, it ended, our “free” time linked to the opening and closing of doors. We quickly gathered ourselves up, meeting adjourned. I went to the cell and wrote down our conversation. Later, I told them I was writing, that I was trying to make sense of our prison lifestyle and all the layers of punishment.

“Fine with me,” said Lala. Someone’s got to make sense of this.”

That Night in My Cell

That night in my cell, I thought about the first days and weeks of my fall. Human frailty is dire in such circumstances. Life occurs hour by hour, day to day. For me, it felt as though I was strictly surviving. Somehow my body breathed, I ate. My daily walk became obedient numbness. I no longer felt the stronger aspects of my personality, I shuffled around the cops, overly apologetic. I feared making a connection with the other women inmates; I missed my family.

I woke up, went to work, called my family. It took such an effort to do so little. My mojo was most definitely not working. Sex was the last thing on my mind.

But Underneath the Bravado

But the Twins, Lala and Leaning Girl were in their late teens and twenties. The nasally, bored DOC instruction for “delayed gratification, girls” is a tough sell for the young and hormonal. They want to feel desirable and act on the cravings of a young body in it’s prime. They shared their stories and bantered back and forth lightheartedly. But underneath the bravado, I knew they were lonely and craved touch and comfort. I admired them. In whatever form, it took courage to hold onto the joys of the human experience and the willingness to love in return.

Lowdown on Sex in a Womens Prison Part Two

Lowdown on Sex in a Womens Prison Part Two

The Low Down on Prison Sex

Good Cop touched many lives of incarcerated women and their families

Good Cop touched many lives of incarcerated women and their families

Good Cop touched many lives of incarcerated women and their families

Day 240 

I had questions about the staff of DOC.

I had questions about the staff of DOC. I decided to ask my questions to two women sitting at a table in the dayroom. I chose them because they wore the clothing of seasoned felons: faded jeans and tee shirts and tennis shoes from the canteen list. I approached in my shiny blue jeans, my Nobody jeans. “May I ask a question?” One woman with wolf-blue eyes nodded to a stool, I sat. “Do you ever have real conversations with the guards?” 

Do you ever have real conversations with the guards?

“I try not to,” said the second woman called Sinful. “They don’t care about us. There’s a couple who are O.K. But never forget which side they are on. Here’s what they want: no fucking, no fighting, no paperwork. Nothing that keeps them here one minute longer. Most have given up on the idea of corrections. They’ll tell you to quit your whining, go outside and leave them alone.”

 You may have been right, but they will always be righter.” said Blue Eyes. “As an inmate no matter your stage of development or intelligence, YOU WILL OBEY. Best thing you can do is get out of those new-girl clothes,” said Blue Eyes.

“Yeah, you look like a mess,” laughed Sinful.

“Drop a written request for a clothing room call-out, said Blue Eyes. “Tell them you lost your Intake weight.”

“Thanks, I’ll do that right now,” I said. I walked over to the podium and asked the guard on duty for a form. He slid it to me and quickly retracted his hand like he didn’t want to touch me.

Karen Campbell Writes ContactThat night in my cell, I thought about what Sinful and Blue Eyes said about the DOC staff. I wondered what would it be like to work at a prison? They chose to come to a prison day after day. Who among them believes incorrections versus punishment? How many times would it take for an officer to give the inmate a chance, trust just a little bit, stick their neck out, only to get lied to or burned in some way? How many times would it take before it hardened them? What kind of person would they become if the safe career choice, day after day, was mistrust and cynicism?

Not long after, I had a call-out to the clothing room. I could hear laughter and music out in the hallway before I arrived. I walked into a large room with floor to ceiling shelves, stacked with clothing, bedding and shoes. The inmate women workers were seasoned felons, the cool girls. They had control over the shelves of clothing and the power to make or break your visual reputation

The jeans on this girl are too tight

The Sargent in charge was a blonde woman with short hair. She looked athletic but also looked like she enjoyed a scoop of ice cream once in a while. A young pear-shaped woman was standing before her for inspection.

“Smith!” she called to one of the inmate workers. “The jeans on this girl are too tight.” She started laughing. “My God, I can see her butt crack. I do not want to see her butt crack, Smith, ya got me?” The jeans rear seam split her inactive bottom into deflated pouches. She was too young for a butt like that.

“There aren’t any bigger jeans in that length,” answered Smith.

“What are you talking about? I can see some on that shelf right there.”

The clothing room inmate crew looked at each other. “But Good Cop,” said Smith. “She’s too new for faded jeans. She hasn’t earned them yet!” The whole crew laughed. “I need to save them for someone like her,” she nodded to me. Yes, I am cool enough for faded jeans! The Sargent looked at her clipboard.


“Yes ma’am.” She smirked, sat back in her chair and swiveled. “C’mon over here, Baker.” I walked to her desk that was housed in a wire cage that reached to the ceiling, the door was open. “Have a seat.” There was a simple chair next to her desk.

“Tell me something about yourself.”

“I am here for a Man II car accident.”


“Yes. I don’t remember anything about the accident.”

“Maybe that’s a good thing. What else Baker? What do you do in here?”

“I just got a job at DMV.”

“That’s a good job in here but it’s gotta be intense dealing with all those rules and frustrated callers,” her eyes were amused.

We’ve seen her around, Good Cop

“I like the carpet and the soft chair,” I said softly and she laughed.

“You know any of these girls?” she tilted her head to the crew. The crew had gathered around the cage, curious.

“We’ve seen her around, Good Cop,” said a woman with a head of massive auburn curls and a little china doll face, “She’s alright, hasn’t caused any drama.”

“You got kids?” asked Good Cop.

“I do,” my heart tightened. “Two girls, fifteen and eighteen. I really let them down.” I felt safe to continue, so I added, “I think of them all the time. I still have five plus years to go.” The woman with the china doll face snorted like my five years was nothing.

Good cop gave a dismissive nod to the crew, sending them back to work. “Baker, let me give you some advice.” She leaned forward, looking me straight in the eye. “You gotta show those girls that you’re gonna make it. Not just survive in here, but own up to your mistakes. All of them. Make it right with them. Show them you can still learn something in here. Send away for some study books, go to any call-out that helps you out. You are still their mother, Baker.” My eyes began to prick with tears. She waited until I could answer.

“I am writing. I think I am going to write a book. I didn’t have a clue what life was like in here. I even didn’t know if I would get a bra,” I looked out at the clothing room shelves, and dried my eyes.

“Yeah?” she sat up. “Why don’t you bring me some of your work and maybe I can help.”

“O.K.” I squeaked.


“C’mon over here.” said Smith, “What’s your name?”


“Let’s get you out of those ugly jeans,” she said. “We gotta save the good ones for us, don’t we?” I felt like I was asked into the tree fort of older kids. She found two pairs of faded blue jeans and a pair of thin cotton shorts. I was elated. I spun around for Good Cop, she gave me a quick once over and they were mine. I kept them until I paroled.

“I really like it in here,” I said gesturing to the stacks of clothes.

“Look, Baker, I’m doing my time too,” said Good Cop, “I got a ways to go before retirement. I would get bored being mean all the time.” She paused and looked at me seriously, “Here is how we get along, Baker: I will always do my job, it comes first. If you let me do my job, and you do your job, we’re going to get along just fine.” It felt fair, like a respectable boundary.

Good Cop was now in charge of the visiting room

Over the following months, I requested a clothing room call out when I had written something. To her credit, she plowed through those early works and encouraged me to sign up for the Write Around Portland workshop that came into the prison. She gave me hope that I was onto something, something my daughters could be proud of.

Four months later, near the holidays, my youngest daughter, Haley came for a visit. A shift change had occurred and Good Cop was now in charge of the visiting room. Both kind and steady, her presence created an environment that seemed less hostile and allowed a chance for the families to talk and heal. Haley had come for the weekend, that day was her final visit, she would fly out in the morning. We were down to the final hours. She cast aside the trendy clothes that made me think she was doing alright and stripped down to a plain gray hoodie. Her eyes were rimmed in dark circles and she slumped on the table between us. We had run out of easy stories, all that remained was raw emotion and the unspoken hurt that was inconsolable. Haley started to cry at the beginning of the visit and cried all the way through. We leaned forward as far as we could across the table, I ached to hold her and stroke her shiny brown hair. At one point she put the hood over her head and wept. 

Good Cop touched many lives of incarcerated women and their familiesGood Cop came over with her officer. She made some small talk to get acquainted but was somber and did not overstay our private time. “Sorry Baker, she can’t wear the hoodie.” She actually looked sorry for saying it. Near the end of our visit, I looked over at Good Cop. She and her attending female officer had their heads leaning together, staring at our table. Their faces were anguished, their eyes brimmed with tears. I quickly put that image aside and focused on the final seconds I had with my precious child.

I hugged Haley goodbye, she felt so frail. From my chair, I gave her a tight smile, holding back so her final sight of me would not be her mother falling apart. I watched her stand in the silence of the sally port. She pulled the hoodie back up, over her head but I could see she was crying openly. The exit door opened, she turned, and I watched the back of that crumpled gray hoodie until it was out of sight, just like the final day at the airport when she moved away.

Is your daughter coming back?

The pat-out area beyond the visiting room was quiet after a visit. I walked in silence at the end of the line women, out of the visiting building, toward the cell block. Good cop fell back to talk to me.

“Is your daughter coming back?”

“Not for a few months, she lives in California.”

“Oh. That’s hard.” She was silent for a few steps and then she started to chuckle sadly, “I don’t think I could take another visit, Baker. My God, she just cried and cried. We let her keep her hoodie on for a while, she’s not supposed to wear a hat of any kind but we felt so sorry for her, and with her hood up, we couldn’t see her cry. She killed me. We were a mess.” We both laughed a little, humor our salvation. We entered the block and went our own way. Following the rules, I kept walking toward my unit but I turned for a glimpse of her walk down the corridor in the opposite direction. Her arms hung at her sides, her shoulders slumped, she was looking at the floor and stepping slowly. She sees me. She sees my child.

Years passed, I midway to the top of the pecking order. All my clothes were faded Blues. I had tennis shoes and a canteen brassiere. One day, I saw Good Cop sitting on a bench in the corridor. Next to her was a woman wailing, tearing cheap toilet paper to shreds. Good Cop was crouched forward elbows on her knees, listening. I walked past. She knew I was there, ever vigilant, but her focus remained on the woman and her grief.

Good Cop touched many lives of incarcerated women and their families. Whenever I saw her in the hallways, I would smile, and stand tall. It only takes one of them to see you and your experience becomes a little more bearable.

Good Cop touched many lives of incarcerated women and their families

Good Cop touched many lives of incarcerated women and their families

Good Cop touched many lives of incarcerated women and their families

Learning to love the unlovable including myself by Karen Campbell

Learning to love the unlovable including myself

Learning to love the unlovable, including myself

Learning to love the unlovable, including myself

Karen Campbell

I was incarcerated at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility from 2005 to 2011 for second-degree manslaughter and driving under the influence of intoxicants. I caused a fatal accident after drinking wine on an empty stomach. I killed two people, one my beloved husband, Tom, and the other, an innocent woman on her way home from work.

Prior to going to prison, I could have been your neighbor. I was an educated professional and community volunteer. I have returned to that life and am now writing a book about my experience. It’s the story of how a middle-aged mom learns to navigate life on the inside.

Learning to love the unlovable, including myselfOver the six years I was incarcerated, I learned how to eat a meal in 10 minutes with a spork. I learned 46 recipes for ramen noodles. I learned obedience and humility. I learned lurid slang. I learned how to keep my mouth shut. I learned how to mother from behind bars, miles from my teenage daughters. And finally, I learned how to love the unlovable, including myself. My memoir will appeal to anyone who has ever survived hardship and anyone who has had to work hard at forgiving themselves. It will help readers embrace the humanity in all of us because ultimately this story is a celebration of what makes us human.

From the current news reports on OPB and other sources, incarceration of women rose 200 percent between 1994 and 2015. The elephant in the living room is Measure 11, which is tough for politicians to oppose or reform. Until judges return to judging, it remains a daily battle in our prisons solve the over crowding issue. While incarcerated, I was a maintenance worker. In 2010, to address crowding, one of my duties was to erect extra bunks. Our supervisor grimly told us that the bunks were designed to be tripled if necessary. Well, here it is.

During my six years and three months, I watched women come in on the turnstile. The inmates fell into two categories. Those with Measure 11 and those who had incentive for good time. I understand programs cost money and some do not work, but over-incarceration does not work either. Any reduction in a sentence is motivating for an inmate. Who wouldn’t want to be out a month early for Christmas? Becoming a decent citizen takes practice and affordable solutions are available. For example, as a part of returning to society, an inmate must study the requirements for US citizenship, a curriculum that’s already available.

For the taxpayer to weigh in, we must humanize the inmate. There are some leaders in our state pointed in the right direction. They are the creative thinkers of reform and made the greatest impact on me personally. One is John Haines of Mercy Corps Northwest who provides the Lifelong Information for Entrepreneurs (LIFE) and the second is Living Yoga, which brings regular classes to Coffee Creek. It is my hope that my book will contribute to that goal.

Over-incarceration just makes better criminals. The best investment for the tax payer is to provide a higher road up and out.

Read the original article here.

Learning to love the unlovable including myself

Learning to love the unlovable including myself

Karen Campbell Writes

The Low Down on Prison Sex, Part One

The Low Down on Prison Sex

Part One

Day 90

Though I heard a lot about prison sex, I didn’t witness it until one morning when I walked into the exercise room. A young woman was leaning against the wall on the same side of the door, just to my left. I saw it all in an instant. The woman on the wall had her red shorts down around her ankles, her palms were flat on the wall. Her eyes were closed, her face in strained in pleasure. Lala, my former co-worker from the kitchen, was kneeling on the floor in front of her. Her face partially hidden by the woman’s thighs. Sex, they’re having sex! My tennis shoe squeaked as I spun around. I bumbled the exit, banging my water pitcher on the door jam. I glanced back at Lala, who looked amused.

Karen Campbell WritesI scuttled off to a corner of the dayroom, like a bee looking for an exit. Sorry, ladies! I was prickly hot and felt the rush of adrenaline. I heard the gossip, I knew it went on. I just didn’t know where. How do they get away with it? Where do they go with the cameras are everywhere? I thought of those two girls. Both mentioned men in their lives, one was a mother. Are they gay now?

Later that day, I decided I should say something, apologize. After all, we lived in the same living room. I saw that Lala was by herself at a dayroom table, so I walked over. I was embarrassed that I witnessed their tryst but certainly not judgmental. I thought about how sterile our lives were inside: no hugging, no touching, not even a soothing circle or pat on the back.

“Hey, Lala, sorry about the cunnilingus interruptus.”

“Dude, you totally fucked that up.” She laughed, she didn’t seem mad about it. “You should have seen your face.”

“I’ll look next time before I go in.”

“You can’t see that wall from the outside but don’t go blabbin’ it around. That wall is my secret spot. It’s hard enough to get the deal done in here,” she said.

I was breaking a rule by standing in place in the dayroom so I sat down. Three other women joined us, one was the girl leaning on the wall, the other two were a known couple they called The Twins. The Twins were both very attractive with long hair that they took their time to style like the movie stars in the torn up magazines from the library. They made an attempt with canteen make-up. They were always together.

“Hey, sorry I walked in on you guys,” I said to the girl who had been leaning on the wall.

“At least it wasn’t a cop,” she answered.

“Oh, did you guys get caught?” giggled Twin One. “Where were you?” I looked at Lala and she gave me the “keep your trap shut” eyes.

“Oh, same ol’ place,” shrugged Lala. “We were hoping for a quickie.” She turned to Leaning Girl with teasing eyes.

“You gotta be quick, no foreplay. It takes all the spontaneity out of it,” said Twin One. “You can’t just fuck for as long as you want, you know? We always have to plan it out. It used to be really hot, wondering if we were gonna get caught. Then I stopped coming,” she turned to Twin Two, “No offense.” Twin Two just shrugged and made a little nod.

“So,” I leaned forward and whispered, “Where do you do this?” I was curious but also sounded like a tabloid reporter. I covered with, “How can I avoid walking in on you guys?”

“Where? Let’s see,” said Lala. “The showers, janitor closet, toilet stalls, all over the kitchen.”

“Cell sanitation,” said Twin Two. “We got it down, in and out of a cell in five minutes.”

“If I have sex in the shower, I see it as a two-fer, clean up and get laid,” Lala slapped her hand on the table and laughed.

“There’s always church,” said Leaning Girl. They all laughed but I didn’t. It reminded me of my first celly, caught fondling in the back pews months ago. She was sent to the Hole. 

“So why do they care? You’re not hurting anyone,” I asked.

“It ends up being a reason for fighting. Most of the worst fighting in here is because of jealousy,” said Twin One. I remembered the brutality and carnage of a fight I witnessed in my early days. It still made me shudder.

“Look, I’m only twenty-four. I got a lot of time” said Twin Two, “I just want to have sex while I still look good doing it.” Both twins laughed, but the laughter was cut short, perhaps from raw emotion. How old would she be when she got out? As old as I am now? 

“I do it to feel sexy,” she turned and looked at Twin One, “I want to have someone to put lipstick on for.”

“My family won’t have anything to do with me,” Twin One said. “If I have someone in here, I can make it.” She looked at Twin Two, “We do everything together. It feels like I am not alone.” These women were refreshingly honest about their challenging relationship and I began to understand it was far more than sex.

The Low Down on Prison Sex

The Low Down on Prison Sex